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Cycle Of Protest And Crackdown Continues In Syria

Palestinian protesters from Syria infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15, 2011 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams, Israel.
Getty Images
Palestinian protesters from Syria infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15, 2011 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams, Israel.

What is going on in Syria is hard to really pin down. Most Western journalists are prohibited from entering the country, but one thing that seems certain, reports NPR's Kelly McEvers from Beirut, is that the cycle of protests then government crackdown continues two months after Syrians began calling for an end to President Bashar Assad's regime.

Case in point: Sunday the government shelled the northern city of Talkalakh. The BBC reports seven people were dead and that residents said the government attack was "indiscriminate."

Kelly told NPR's Robert Siegel that residents of Talkalakh said the government was cracking down on peaceful protests and the dead officers resulted from shootouts between forces who refused to shell civilians and those who were forcing them to do so. The government had a different story, saying it was cracking down on an armed rebellion and those who they say snuck in from Lebanon to help rebels.

Kelly said the truth likely lies somewhere in between. Kelly also talked about the politics driving the conflict inside the country. The protests, she said, are spread out across the country, but Syria's second city, Aleppo, hasn't seen any protests and where that city falls in the conflict will likely determine Assad's future:

The weekend also saw protests at Israel's border with Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip. To mark the anniversary of Israel's founding, protesters tried to cross the border and Israeli forces opened fire.

Today the United States government condemned Syria's involvement in the protests and said it was an attempt to distract from what's going on inside the country.

"We are also strongly opposed to the Syrian government's involvement in inciting yesterday's protests in the Golan Heights," Press Secretary Jay Carney said. "Such behavior is unacceptable and does not serve as a distraction from the Syrian government's ongoing repression of demonstrators in its own country."

Carney added: "It seems apparent to us that that is an effort to distract attention from the legitimate expressions of protests by the Syrian people and from the harsh crackdown that the Syrian government has perpetrated against its own people."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.